I’m fully prepared to believe that Mitch Daniels’ family proved to be the unleapable hurdle in his abortive run-up to the GOP presidential race. Imagine yourself as wife Cheri, having split for the coast to marry on old flame, your husband and young daughters left behind in Boone County, Indiana, and then returned to the nest four years later, going head-to-head with the most assiduously maternal First Lady–to say nothing of the most together family–in the history of the American presidency. I don’t think so.

How far Daniels could have gone is an unknown never to be known, but he was unlikely to have emerged with a lot of white evangelical support, notwithstanding his readiness to stick a knife into Planned Parenthood. Where that support will go is the big unknown to be known in the race, and the best place to start is with good old identity politics. At the moment, the plausible GOP candidates (sorry, RonPau), include two Mormons (Romney, Huntsman), two Catholics (Santorum, Gingrich), and three evangelicals (Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Palin).

Palin claims to have “the fire in my belly”–which I suppose is better than the bun in my oven, but it looks like she’ll also take the family way out. Bachmann has the fire, no sign of family resistance, but huge problems being taken seriously outside her own special world. Pawlenty is both plausible and has serious evangelical bona fides–including having been married by the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson. TPaw officially throws his hat into the ring today. Watch for a gathering of the evangelical powers-that-be behind him.

Pawlenty’s early win in Iowa and Romney’s early win in New Hampshire will be discounted because both were governors of neighboring states. Then things move South. Evangelicals still don’t trust Mormons. Mitt’s going to have his hands full.

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